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Richard Branson’s £100,000 to defend McCanns

Original Source: TIMES: 16 SEPTEMBER 2007
From The Sunday Times September 16, 2007
Steven Swinford, Christina Lamb and Ruairi O’Kane
THE billionaire tycoon Sir Richard Branson is giving £100,000 to create a fighting fund to help the parents of Madeleine McCann to clear their names.

The fund, which will cover both legal and PR expenses, is to seek the support of wealthy businessmen convinced of the McCanns’ innocence. Branson, who has been in regular contact with the couple since their daughter went missing, hopes that it could amass £1m.

The money would mean that members of the McCann family could drop their plans to sell their houses to pay legal costs.

A source close to Branson said: “Sir Richard wants to ensure the McCanns get access to the best legal advice. He has a good instinct on these things. It will help to ensure that they get a fair hearing and that all of the facts become available.

“A number of other individuals will be involved. The fund’s size is potentially unlimited. It will initially look to raise about £1m, but it will be as much as it takes to make the McCanns’ case.”

According to John McCann, Gerry’s brother, they would welcome a court hearing. “Gerry and Kate feel it would be better for them to be charged so they could prove their innocence. In court it would be there for all to see how ridiculous the charges and the evidence are. Unfortunately their reputations have been tarnished and no matter what happens people will think they are guilty,” he said.

According to a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times, only 20% of respondents believe that the McCanns are completely innocent. Nearly half (48%) believe that they could have been responsible for their daughter’s death, even if it was an accident; 32% were unsure. A total of 40% said that the McCanns’ high-profile campaign had made them suspicious, but 50% said that it had not.

Portuguese police officers were last night on stand-by awaiting authorisation from a judge to begin "extensive" searches for a body. According to Portuguese press reports, British detectives will also reinterview Kate on behalf of Portuguese police who suspect she may have accidentally killed her daughter. There are also plans to reconstruct the night of May 3 to clarify discrepancies in statements.

The McCanns announced that they will be spending £80,000 on an advertising campaign in Spain and Portugal appealing for information on Madeleine.


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